Abhishek Pathak founded a business to give a living for rural women artisans who work with solar charkhas. Greenwear Fashion has offered employment to around 500 women in rural Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Abhishek Pathak, a textile designer by trade, is from the small hamlet of Sultanpur in Uttar Pradesh and is India’s first solar vastra (garment) entrepreneur.
Greenwear Fashion, established in Lucknow, sells clothing made of yarn spun from solar charkhas, fabric created from solar looms, and clothing embroidered on solar stitching machines.
The entire manufacturing process is solar powered, hence the term solar vastra. How a man from a middle-class family, the youngest of four siblings in a rural village, went on to study textile design in one of India’s finest fashion universities in Delhi and set up his enterprise with a seed capital of Rs 50 lakh from IIM Calcutta.
Innovation Park (IIMCIP) demonstrates that the strength of purpose, rather than other things, determines your future. Greenwear Fashion Private Limited, founded in 2019, has reached a two-year consecutive turnover of Rs 2.5 crore.
Greenwear items are available at two company-owned stores in Lucknow, Indira Nagar and Tilak Nagar. Prices range from Rs 500 to Rs 5000 for khadi kurtas, palazzos, and sarees.
They also make maternity and nursing apparel, as well as ‘adapted clothing’ for the differently-abled. However, B2B accounts for approximately 85 percent of their sales.
They work for larger firms and create things for well-known mainstream fashion brands such as ‘W for Women’ and ‘Aurelia.’ About 500 women in rural Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have found work thanks to Abhishek’s efforts.
Abhishek is from a lower-middle-class household. He’d been staying at a city hostel for about a year. He never made it to engineering, but he did succeed in passing the NIFT entrance exam and obtaining a position at NIFT, Delhi.
“In 2007, he graduated from Saraswati Vidya Mandir Senior Secondary School in Sultanpur with a Hindi diploma and enrolled at NIFT in Delhi.
Because of his Hindi medium background and small-town roots, he felt out of place at NIFT. He was a really creative individual, but he had no knowledge about fashion.
Abhishek, on the other hand, was a quick study and quickly adjusted to his new surroundings. Through NIFT’s Craft Cluster Initiative programme, he had registered for a four-year bachelor’s degree in textile design and learnt everything there was to know about textile design, textile technology, and rural artisans and weavers.
He had the opportunity to chronicle the culture and art of numerous rural communities across the United States. That’s when he saw rural India’s potential. Abhishek began to consider how he could work with artisans and rural women to empower them while also utilising the women’s skills in the textile industry.
He was in his final year of studies when he was offered a job in Delhi with Croscill Living, a US-based home furnishings company. There, he focused on product development and design.
In 2013, he left from the company and co-founded the Prakriti apparel line with a buddy.
Abhishek explained, “Prakriti was started it with a lot of passion and ambition, but everything came to a halt when we realised we didn’t have any expertise running a business. But I didn’t take it up since my father was diagnosed with throat cancer and I wanted to be with my family,”
He joined the Drishtee Foundation, a non-profit organisation in Noida, in 2013 and oversaw its textiles and crafts department until 2016. Abhishek’s job requires him to work with female craftsmen in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Assam. Greenwear Fashion was born in 2016 as a result of this. He developed the concept in partnership with the Bhartiya Harit Khadi Gramodaya Sansthan (BHKGS), a khadi development organisation based in Lucknow.
Abhishek joined BHKGS and completed a pilot project for the Union Ministry of MSME’s Mission Solar Charkha, in which he instructed 4000 rural women on how to use the solar charkha for spinning labour. Greenwear was created with the help of IIM Calcutta Innovation Park in order to give them with work,” he explains.
Abhishek claims that, despite the fact that Greenwear Fashion is still small, he hopes to employ 5,000 rural women through his textile brand in the next five years.
Abhishek Pathak said, “Even if only 5% of India’s villages convert to solar charkha clusters, they will be able to meet 50% of the country’s cotton needs while generating very little CO2. Most importantly, it will boost the economy of rural India.”